Allentown ending mask mandate amid changing COVID-19 guidance

Written by on February 25, 2022

Allentown ending mask mandate amid changing COVID-19 guidance

By Jim Deegan
February 25, 2022

ALLENTOWN, Pa. – Masks will be optional for Allentown employees and visitors to city property starting Monday, Feb. 28.

The end to the city’s mask mandate comes amid changing guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and as Pennsylvania begins its transition from pandemic to the endemic stage of COVID-19.

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Allentown’s decision to make mask-wearing optional at city hall and other buildings was made with input from the Allentown Health Bureau.

City Communications Manager Genesis Ortega said in a statement that Allentown will continue to monitor the status of COVID-19 cases in the community. After Monday, the mask mandate will be reinstated if it is deemed necessary to protect employees and citizens, she said.

Social distancing and frequent hand washing are encouraged, and Plexiglas barriers now in place will remain, Ortega said.

Lehigh County also will end its mask mandate starting Monday for employees and visitors to the Lehigh County Government Center, 17 S. Seventh St.

County spokeswoman Laura Grammes said masks will still be highly recommended for all county employees and government center visitors. The change only applies to the government center; masks will remain mandatory for now at other county-run buildings such as the 911 center, the jail, Lehigh County Courthouse and Cedarbrook nursing home facilities, she said.

The announcements come as the CDC on Friday outlined a new set of measures for communities where COVID-19 is easing its grip that focus less on positive test results and more on what’s happening at hospitals.

They also come as acting Pennsylvania Health Secretary Keara Klinepeter held a briefing updating the state’s COVID-19 mitigation efforts and signaling a shift in the state’s approach.

“Pennsylvania is well-positioned with the tools, knowledge, and resources to prioritize prevention in everyday life and manage outbreaks when they occur,” Klinepeter said Friday.

She cited CDC figures showing Pennsylvania providers have administered more than 22 million COVID-19 vaccines. More than 76 percent of people ages 18 and older are fully vaccinated; 95 percent of residents ages 18 and older received at least one vaccination, according to the state Department of Health. 

Klinepeter said vaccinations remain the best defense against the coronavirus.

“That’s why we are prepared to move beyond the current phase of the COVID-19 pandemic,” she said. “In addition to continued vaccinations, we know that the key to our transition​ will be a strong public health infrastructure that can support our needs as we move to the next phase of our response and recovery.”

Meanwhile, the CDC said more than 70% of the U.S. population lives in counties where the coronavirus is posing a low or medium threat to hospitals. Those people can stop wearing masks for now. The agency is still advising that people, including schoolchildren, wear masks where the risk of COVID-19 is high.

The new recommendations don’t change the requirement to wear masks on public transportation.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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